UCAS stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is the centralised, online service that students use to apply to University. Submitting both an informed and strong application through UCAS is a lengthy process, lasting approximately 18 months from initial research to you enrolling on your preferred Higher Education programme.
The UCAS application process can be broken down into four distinct sections.
You can undertake research by requesting prospectuses, visiting institutions’ websites, attending open days and UCAS fairs, and asking lots of questions.
You can start to complete the sections of the UCAS form in the July of your Year 12 and continue to work on it throughout the summer.
Applications officially open in September of your Year 13 and close on October 15th for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science courses and January 15th for all other courses. Forms received after this date will be marked as late and universities are not under any obligation to consider them.
At this stage, you do not have to indicate or rank your course choices in order of preference. They are listed alphabetically and UCAS act as a mailing house. It is not possible for a university to see the other choices of institution that you have made.
You can only make one application per cycle and, therefore, you need to make sure that your course choices are either the same, or similar, so that your form remains focused.
Making final choices
If an application is received on time, you will receive decisions from your choices by the 24th March.
You have until the start of May to decide which will be your first choice (known as your Firm) and your second choice (known as your Insurance). In order for the Insurance choice to act as a lifeline should your results not be as expected come Results Day in August, it should (ideally) have offered around two grades lower than your Firm choice – although this may not always be possible.
Ultimately, the Firm choice needs to be the one you most want to attend.
Results and confirmation
Once you receive your Further Education results (e.g. A-Level, Level 3 BTEC) it will hopefully be a time to celebrate! If you have met (or exceeded) the conditions of your Firm offer then your place will be confirmed. Similarly, if you have missed your Firm, but achieved your Insurance offer, then this will also be confirmed.
If you have missed the grades required for both your Firm and Insurance choices, then you will be entered into Clearing and able to approach alternative institutions to try and secure a place at one of these.
Students who have exceeded their Firm offer are also eligible for Adjustment (providing their offer wasn’t Unconditional). This allows them to approach universities that were perhaps initially perceived as too ambitious and enquire if they would be willing to accept them now, off the back of their results. Adjustment is purely optional and students should not feel obliged to utilise it.
Once your place has been confirmed, you can continue to prepare everything that you may need and begin the countdown to Fresher’s week!